Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Sincere Heart is Better

I hate #FOMO. 

I got a little sidelined today. Being sick is never fun, but I especially struggle with it when it causes me to miss out on things. Sunday mornings are my thing. I’m certainly blessed to enjoy my life and my work throughout the week, but it is Sundays that really give me a jolt of excitement about what God is doing in our community. Missing one bums me out.

And that’s when I thought…..that’s not okay. God is at work throughout every moment of our lives. And if he is calling me to rest, then I must rest.

I’d love to think it doesn’t take a stomach virus for me to slow down and hear from God. But, maybe He is saying, “I’d like some time with you today.” More than the “first fifteen”….more than morning devo….let’s spend some actual time together. 

If we set out trying to accomplish His purposes without His strength, we will surely be overwhelmed. It’s by God’s grace that we receive vision for our lives, and by His grace we sustain it. 

Do you ever come across verses that you are sure you’ve read before, but they stand out in a totally new way? That was this for me today:

“Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart.” 2 Corinthians 5:12 NLT

Is God working to make my personal ministry spectacular? Sure, maybe. But, it pales in comparison to the work He does on the inside of my heart.

Prayer: God, don’t allow my desire for a spectacular ministry to outweigh my sincere heart for You. I don’t want to be so busy looking for the spectacular that I miss the supernatural happening before my eyes. Remind me where I started constantly. Let me daily remember that it’s only when connected to the Source in an immensely deep way that I am able to stand up under the calling You have on my life and ministry.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Seasons Change

"What if right now was the time to run with a dream in your spirit and believe you have the wind of heaven at your back?" - Carl Lentz

I don't think everything happens for a reason. But, that doesn't mean that nothing does.

Totally and completely wrapped up in inspiration this morning. My heart is full and ready for the next great adventure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Desert Flower

I work in an office building in downtown Manhattan and it's basically your standard cube farm. I don't think the offices have been touched since the early 70's. So, when my agency first moved into it, my friend and I were trying to find ways to spruce up our workspaces a bit with plants and what not.

Conveniently, the "hip" kind of plant to have around now is like a cactus or succulent of some sort. (My generation is awesome. Millennials will trend ANYTHING. Plants? Those have been around since always, but ok.) So they're pretty easy to find at a corner market somewhere in NYC. That's lucky for me because they don't require a lot of attention. A green thumb I am not. Plants have been known to die on my watch in record time.

After a while though, this cactus I bought started to concern me because it lacked authenticity. started to seem fake. But, it was in real soil! The trickery! I would water and water it and it didn't even matter. Also, there was an orange flower on top of it that wouldn't seem to grow or wilt no matter what I did. My co-workers would just laugh at me as they watered their real plants. We finally decided that it definitely was fake (much to my chagrin) and then it became a running joke in the office.

I left it out for a while after that and then set it on top of a shelf in the corner and forgot about it for about 6 months.  

A couple days ago, another co-worker came into my office and said "Shannon! How do you kill a cactus?" At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I looked up on top of the shelf and there was that old cactus, gray and tired as it had ever looked, but still planted in the pot on top of my shelf. 

It was real after all! I had just convinced myself it was a fake plant because I wasn't seeing any immediate results. It was so sturdy after all and I, the expert of plant murdering, had paid so little attention to it that I thought it MUST be fake. I couldn't possibly be keeping a real plant alive like that.

Well, I couldn't wait to tell everyone and we had a long laugh over that one. The audacity of that plant!

But, I couldn't help but feel like there is a lesson in that somewhere. I think we can treat our lives a lot like my fake/real cactus.

Sometimes, we want something so bad and when God gives it to us, we don't know how to keep it up. Other times, we don't recognize answered prayers for what they are. We say to God "This doesn't look exactly like I thought it would." Or we're thrown into doubt because it doesn't feel like the dream we asked for.

We try to work at it and when things don't turn out exactly like we want, we give up. We grow weary of pounding the ground. We stop pouring into it.

We stop watering the dream.

The great thing about a flower in the desert though is that they can still come back to life. Flowers that were made to thrive in desert conditions know how to stand up to a drought. They might go a long time without the water they need to thrive, but when the rain comes, they bounce back.

It might look dead to you, but God can still bear fruit from the dream. And then, when your dreams are finally realized and you are living in days you never thought you'd see, your story will give Him glory. You'll know it wasn't you that made the dream, because you had already given up on it. The best kind of dreams are the ones that turn into blessings, the ones you know could have only come to pass through His divine plan and purpose in you.

But Blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
the woman who sticks with God,
They're like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers -
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.

Jeremiah 17:8 MSG

I researched about ten different versions of this scripture. But, there's something specifically wonderful about the Message translation. It is the only version that says the faithful are like trees re-planted by the river.

I think sometimes, when life gets tough and you find yourself facing decisions left and right and you don't know what to do, you have to choose to replant yourself in good soil. Replant yourself and commit to stir up faith to walk out the dream God has placed in your heart.

In the seasons where your efforts seem fruitless, when it starts to seem like it doesn't matter what you do, how you contribute, or how much you pray and seek God, nothing changes,replant yourself in that vision you first had.

Even in the dry seasons, when your circumstances make you think the rain has dried up and the dream is dead, not because something bad has happened but maybe because nothing has happened,replant yourself by the river of God's blessing and simply await your flourishing moment. 

I am the desert flower. Maybe you are the desert flower. Perhaps we need to choose to replant ourselves in the only thing that can quench the thirst in our souls, Jesus, while we wait for Him to do His work.


Listening: While I wrote this, I was listening to "A Place Only You Can Go" by Needtobreathe. <3 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

If a barista makes a latte in Brooklyn and no one takes a photo, is it still delicious?

I need a timeout. 

Social media has become too big a priority for me and I've absent-mindedly given it too much authority over my time. After reading this blog today (#JOMO is a thing, catch on world) and hearing my pastor speak for the past couple of weeks about the importance of creating space in your life, I decided that this break (particularly from Instagram) was a necessary one. 

I have curated my Instagram account in such a way that I follow mostly people who inspire me with their creativity. So, it's generally a good thing. From photographers to fashion bloggers and foodies, the bulk of my Instagram feed consists of beautiful images of work worthy of appreciation in the form of a "double tap." (I also just have some really talented friends if I may say so.) I see the platform as a place where people share knowledge and ideas. It's the reason I love it so much more than any of the other social media platforms. But, I find that lately it's too much of a good thing.

I'm struggling with comparison in ways that I shouldn't and I don't like the feeling of anxiety I get when I can't access it for more than a certain amount of time. Being tied to something like that doesn't fit into the freedom life that I am designed for. I recently realized I was checking Insta on my phone upwards of thirty times a day on average. Any time I am even slightly bored or find myself in a mildly awkward social situation, the phone comes out and I am looking at pictures so fast that sometimes I don't even realize what I am doing. I started using it as a sort of safety net when I'm too lazy to put it down and have an actual conversation and I don't like that. I spend way more time looking at little square photos on my phone than I do praying or meditating, talking to my family, or actually creating any of the wonderful things I have been inspired to by the people I follow there. 

Anil Dash discusses a beautiful idea in his blog about the "Joy of Missing Out.

"Being the one in control of what moves me, what I feel obligated by, and what attachments I have to fleeting experiences is not an authority that I'm willing to concede to the arbitrary whims of an app on my mobile phone. I think more and more people are going to retake this agency over their feelings about being social, as well. That's a joyful thing." 

So, I decided to take the next week completely off of not just Instagram, but all social media platforms as a trial run to experience some #JOMO. 

Some people are probably saying "A week? Really? WTF?" But that's huge for me, someone who (literally) works in, volunteers with, eats and breathes social. The point is to come back with fresh perspective and more healthy habits. If that means I am only getting on Instagram once or twice a day, so be it. If I want to extend the social fast for another week...great! 

As for work, I'll still have to log on intermittently for my job(s), but I won't check my own accounts. I want to have some time to catch up to myself and utilize the "moments" to actually think for a second. I don't want to be afraid of the nothingness. 

Why announce it like it's some big deal? I mean, people survived for...well, for always without social media up to this point. I guess I hope by posting this it encourages some of my friends to also think about what we're sowing into and how we're spending our time. I don't want us to be known as the generation who won't look up. 

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose, right? 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

No Vacancy for Fear.

1 John 4:17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.